Jeff Sprague wins the 2020 Challenge Cup for his first career win. Photo by Josh Gassmann
By Mason Prince - February 10, 2020
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. – Eight pros showed up to Bull Shoals Lake in Mountain Home, Arkansas with a chance to win the 2020 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches, but only one walked away with the ultimate prize. Jeff Sprague, in his first-ever MLF Cup event, took home the Challenge Cup Championship after catching 27 bass for 47 pounds, 8 ounces. Sprague beat out second-place Michael Neal by 5-7 to claim the victory.
The six-year pro has been close to a win multiple times in his career, citing multiple second-place and Top-10 finishes on his resume. Sprague tallied three straight Top-10 finishes to start the 2019 Bass Pro Tour season, including a second-place finish in Stage Two. To finally secure the top spot against a field of proven and successful anglers, Sprague said he is on cloud nine with his new trophy in hand.
“This is just such an overwhelming moment for me,” Sprague said while riding a wave of emotions. “Yes, it was my first win ever, but it was also the first Cup event that featured all anglers from the Bass Pro Tour. These guys are the best in the world and to win this thing against guys like this just makes this moment perfect.”
The Texas pro won his Elimination Round and caught the most weight in his Sudden Death Round en route to his Challenge Cup Championship. With every cast he made and every fish he caught on Bull Shoals Lake throughout the week, he says he gained more confidence in his ability. By the time he entered the final day of competition, Sprague admitted he felt differently than he ever had before in a Championship Round.
“I’ve never really had the feeling that I knew I could win the event, but I had that feeling during the entire Championship Round,” Sprague recalled. “To go through that entire week and know that you’re in a position to win the whole thing and do it, this is just such a great feeling. To not only win but qualify for the World Championship, that’s icing on the cake. Not many guys get to do that, so for me to be one of the five guys that have qualified right now is just a special feeling.”
Sprague will return to MLF Cup competition for the Heritage and Patriot Cups.
World Championship Bound
While there can only be one champion, there are still two other anglers who went home with a valuable consolation prize. Michael Neal and Andy Montgomery rounded out the Top Three in the Championship Round and have qualified for the General Tire World Championship. The two will join Sprague, Edwin Evers (REDCREST Champion) and Jacob Wheeler (defending World Champion) as the only anglers who have qualified for the event. Although his first MLF win still eludes him, Neal leaves the Challenge Cup with his head held high.
“It’s disappointing to not win, but at the same time, it’s a great day,” Neal said after his second-place finish. “Coming in second in the Championship Round you really can’t complain. Congratulations to Jeff Sprague because he definitely earned it.”
Montgomery finished in third place with 23 bass for 41 pounds in his Championship Round. The South Carolina pro was barely able to hold off a surging Mike Iaconelli by just 11 ounces for the final spot in the Top 3.
“I could have won this thing, but I feel like I won finishing in third place,” Montgomery said after qualifying for the General Tire World Championship. “I really want to win one of these events, but it feels good knowing I’m going to the World Championship. I can’t wait to get there and have another shot at a win.”
MLF Cup competition continues with the start of the Heritage Cup from Syracuse, New York. The Heritage Cup is the second of four Cup events this season. Watch all the action on Outdoor Channel, Saturdays from 2-4 p.m. ET.